- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2017

President Donald Trump may be doing a lot of good for America, particularly in terms of putting the nation first on the international stage and its citizens, not special interests, first in the domestic arena.

But on asset forfeiture laws, this White House is wrong. Dead wrong, completely wrong, egregiously wrong.

“We hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture — especially for drug traffickers,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in his speech to the National District Attorney’s Association in Minneapolis. “With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures.”

OK — no. You see, those two phrases have no rightful business in the same sentence. You can’t “increase forfeitures” and do so “with care.” The entire civil asset forfeiture system is so counter to the Fourth Amendment, there’s no “care” about it.

It’s like saying “with care,” we plan to mow down all those houses over there and tell the residents to hit the road. Or “with care,” we plan to forcibly house our local Army Guard unit in that apartment community, and tell the renters to come back in a month. It just doesn’t fit.

Radical Islamic terror? Now there’s a phrase that works. “Increasing forfeitures,” “with care?” Nope.

Complete opposites. Complete slap to Constitution. Here’s why: The nation’s civil asset forfeiture program allows local police the power to seize properties — cash, cars, cell phones, airplanes, houses, computers, what have you — from those suspected of drug-related crimes before said suspects are convicted.

Heck, sometimes the suspects aren’t even charged with a crime and police, under civil forfeitures, can seize their stuff.

Now nobody wants criminals to profit from their crimes, particularly low-life criminals who make a tidy profit off filling and killing the minds of youth with illegal drugs. But dashing the constitutional protections to be secure in one’s person, home and property, and to be safe from unwarranted and unreasonable searches and seizures, is not the proper way to fight the war on drugs. It’s not American.

What’s worse is that once these properties are seized, police in some states can use them for their own departmental causes. In other words, civil asset forfeiture laws allow cops to take, say, the cars of a suspect, sell them at auction, and use the money to buy new police equipment.

In fact, feds and state authorities even participate in this cash cow flow. The Department of Justice and U.S. Marshals Office, for instance, get their own pieces of the action by overseeing the selling of some properties and distributing proceeds back to the locals, or by incentivizing locals to go after suspects by giving them percentages of the seized properties.

The U.S. Marshals Service even advertises its upcoming sales of seized properties on its website. As it notes, properties “offered for sale may include a wide range of personal property such as motor vehicles, boats, aircraft, jewelry, art, antiques and collectibles.”

And what happens to the suspects — or the not-so-suspects who’ve lost their properties and possessions, but not yet been convicted or perhaps even charged with crimes? Well, the system allows the right to go to court and fight to win their properties back — to prove their innocence in the eyes of the judge.

This is backwards, folks. Innocent until proven guilty, right? And plenty of innocents through the years have been swept into and spit out of this backwards, often corrupt system — plenty of innocents like those who would typically stand in the support camps of police, and on the side of law of order.

Law enforcement, of which Sessions is part, always say asset forfeiture is a necessary tool to fight crime and control the drug trade. Not true. More police on the streets is a tool to fight crime. Better undercover officer training and staffing are more tools to fight crime. Strong leadership that doesn’t cave to politically correct notions about crime — yet another tool. But civil asset forfeiture?

Grabbing properties from those who’ve not yet been convicted, and in some cases not even charged, of crimes is not a tool to fight crime. It’s a means of enriching law enforcement on the backs of innocence, at the utmost expense of the Constitution. It’s a police state-type program and should be abolished. And those who stand on the side of bolstering asset forfeiture, rather than reducing and banning it — yes, even those in this White House, from which much good has come — are setting themselves as an enemy to freedom, in conflict with the Constitution.

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